Dr. Robin J. Hayes, Creative Director of Progressive Pupil, will share updates about two of our projects at the internationally acclaimed Black Portraitures Conference at Harvard University. This year’s conference, which coalesces artists, activists and scholars together to discuss images of Black bodies in mainstream art, focuses on “The Color of Silence.” Tiphanie Yanique, prize-winning author of Land of Love and Drowning, will join Dr. Hayes on a panel to discuss their television series Fortune Bay. UC Berkeley professor and author Dr. Leigh Raiford will discuss her collaboration with Hayes on their new multi-platform project Inside Exile: Kathleen Neal Cleaver and her Black Panther Family. Dr. Courtney Baker of Occidental College will moderate. The conference is free and open to the public.
I attended the first national Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) Convening in Cleveland, Ohio and return to say that the movement is alive and strong. This past weekend’s events called into memory our Black elders and youth, our LGB, Queer, and Trans brothers and sisters, and all others whose lives were taken along the way as we struggle for the right to Black humanity. The movement breathes because we breathe, and we work, and we sacrifice.
That said, revolutionary work is being done because M4BL was a huge success. Nearly one thousand beautiful Black faces showed up in downtown Cleveland for the weekend of July 24th to find community and collectively re-imagine the future of Black society. Culture, organizing, healing, and imagining were some of the focal points of the broad range of activities available for attendees. I had the pleasure of participating in dialogues on Black workers, self-determination through food justice and agriculture, anti-Blackness, and a panel discussion with four ex-Panthers.
What was profound for me at this Convening was the power that emanated from the space, brought on by the union of passionate Black individuals across generations. I felt this energy from my very first session, “#BlackWorkersMatter: The State of Black Worker Organizing in the U.S.” The fact of our very presence, a collective of black people organizing together when our communities are so often divided, was a sentiment that I heard many in the room echo. Panelist Kimberly Freeman Brown took a moment to publicly acknowledge the intergenerational space, a rarity in her work as a labor organizer, and let the feeling simmer for a while before beginning. One woman exclaimed in a small group discussion that she was experiencing culture shock, seeing so many young people in a space organized around the labor movement.
What made this workshop so powerful, and this held true for the Conference as a whole, was the collective memory generated by the display of ages in the room. We had elders who were more closely touched by the labors of the 20th century civil rights movement, retired union workers, veteran leaders, students, educators, young community leadership, and laborers themselves. Each of us brought our own segment of the Black existential condition from which we came. The result was a lively and impassioned discussion about the kind of labor movement we need to enable economic justice and ensure the health of Black communities. Our conversations were cut short in the interest of time, but we had built up so much momentum that most stuck around to build connections with other community organizers and share experiences. What happened in the #BlackWorkersMatter session was not a rarity. Each of my four sessions, as well as those I observed in passing was pulsing with that same creative, productive energy that will be essential in our next strides towards liberation.
A moment ago I mentioned that the Convening was a place where “collective memory” arose. Collective memory refers to a people’s understanding of the world and themselves throughout time as formed by the group’s constituents. The refusal of Black collective memory by White supremacist colonial power has been laden in the fabric of global societies since the origins of the African Diaspora. Our people have been systematically enslaved, colonized, sterilized, incarcerated, mis-educated, and murdered. Our children are born targets for law enforcement and government agencies like Foster Care. Black society is entangled in a world of social deaths that prevent our masses from attaining the cohesion and stability necessary to reconstruct that collective memory which has been withheld from us. With a revived collective memory, we may learn to know and love ourselves as ourselves and not through the lens of Whiteness.
So, when I say that was an essence of collective memory at M4BL, I foresaw a future of opportunity for our communities to grow and heal as we work across generations in solidarity. When I attended the panel led by former Black Panthers Ashanti Alston, Pam Hannah, Dhoruba Bin-Wahad, and Hank Jones (San Francisco 8), they expressed to us that they were not certain they would live to see “the movement” live like this again. This nod from our elders in the struggle is a sign that we have “connected the dots” throughout our history and are on the path to building something great.
M4BL was as educational as it was inspiring, and it reminded me of the need for Black Studies programming in communities. What better way to build collective memory than to educate the masses about Black history, culture, and ideology? When the Black Panther Party was still active, one could not be granted general membership until they had completed a political education class. In their Ten-Point Program, a declaration of ideals, the Panthers wrote, “We believe in an educational system that will give our people a knowledge of self. If a man does not have knowledge of himself and his position in society and the world, then he has little chance to relate to anything else.” The Panthers were active in one of the nation’s peak moments of Black resistance, and they knew that education would be vital the integrity of their struggle. The M4BL Convening was a step towards this reality, as organizers shared their understanding of the Black condition. Black Studies programming with be another step towards the reification of our humanity.
On the closing of the second day of M4BL, after hearing words from the families of our recently slain, trans activist Miss Major, and other community organizers, we entered into a chant. Together we repeated, “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support one another. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” We shouted this aloud a few times and on our last round, Kendrick Lamar’s Alright began to play on the auditorium speakers. The crowd burst into celebration. While there is much work to do, I left Cleveland excited for what is to come. I am hopeful and optimistic, because in time, I know “We gon’ be alright.”
by Rhyston Mays
The voices of those in the Black Panther movement had to be strong, loud, and relentless if they were going to go against the power of a government backed by a nation so engrained in racism. Some of the strongest, loudest, and most relentless people in this movement were the women. They had to be, not only to survive the daily struggle of being a woman of color in a white man’s world, but to also combat the sexism within their own movement.
As a child, I was always fascinated with fiction – I loved stories about ordinary people faced with challenges that forced them to rise to the occasion and become superhuman to achieve the impossible. As I grew older my fascination with heroes did not waver, but I was able to find inspiration outside of comic books and in real life heroes like Bobby Seale.
Progressive Pupil is happy to announce that thanks to your support the feature-length documentary Black and Cuba is complete! The production team has incorporated community feedback from work-in-progress screenings over the past few months in San Juan, East Harlem, San Diego, Greenwich Village and other locations. We’re currently working on bringing Black and Cuba to a film festival near you. To keep in touch with the film’s progress, like its Facebook page, follow us on twitter and subscribe to this blog.
On April 6, 1968 the Oakland Police Department shot 17 year-old Robert “Lil’ Bobby” Hutton 12 times while he was attempting to surrender following a confrontation between police and members of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Hutton’s murder took place just two days after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee and riots were consuming Black neighborhoods throughout the US. The story of Bobby Hutton’s murder has taken on nearly mythic proportions and different versions abound. But the image of Bobby Hutton–the brave first recruit of the Black Panthers, his meteoric rise as the Party’s treasurer and his tragic death– continues to resonate as an audacious style of Black resistance. The Black Panther Party took an openly hostile stance toward police and advanced alternate styles of community safety, including armed neighborhood patrols.
On our last day at the World Social Forum, we co-hosted a Convergence Assembly with PanAfrican Roots, the Cuban Institute for Friendship Among the Peoples (ICAP), the African Awareness Association and InterOccupy. The goal of the Convergence Assemblies is to create specific calls to action and find ways for communities from all over the world to build solidarity around issues that affect us as a group. Essentially, they allow for World Social Forum participants to digest the conversations, information and excitement of the last three days into concrete plans they can take home with them and implement.
We were excited to be a part of this aspect of the Forum because it gave us the opportunity to share the activism that is currently happening in the United States against the US embargo of Cuba as well as to promote an international conversation about the impact of US foreign policy on Black people around the world. The assembly offered us a unique opportunity to share parts of the film Black and Cuba with an international audience and gain their input. Bob Brown, formerly of the Black Panther Party and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, gave an informative, engaging presentation about PanAfrican activism. We were thrilled to have a full house with representatives from Belgium, Cuba, Egypt, Canada, Kenya, the United States, Palestine, Tunisia, Germany, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Algeria and France.
Produced by the Black Panther Commemoration Committee, NY in conjunction with Maysles Cinema. Artwork on display by Sophia Dawson
We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present-day society.
The box office is open for advance ticket purchases Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, & Friday, 12 – 6 pm, and one hour before the start of all events. If the door is locked during these hours, knock on the store front window. Ticket-holders arriving 15 minutes before showtime are guaranteed a seat inside the theater. Overflow seating available for sold out shows.
Beloved Japanese-American Black Panther Party member Richard Aoki was recently accused of being a FBI informant by investigative journalist Seth Rosenfeld in his new book, Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power. Aoki passed away in 2009 and is therefore unable to defend himself against these accusations. However, a number of activists and scholars, including Professor Diane Fujino, Aoki’s biographer, question whether Rosenfeld presents conclusive or even sufficient evidence to support his claims.
Black is beautiful, but black isn’t power. Knowledge is power.
-Lewis H. Michaux
As a young girl who grew up in the Bronx and attended public school, my US history courses touched on the subject of the Civil Rights Movement in the most basic ways: Martin Luther King, Jr. was good, Malcolm X was bad. As a pillar of our community, I aspired to be like Martin Luther King, changing the world through nonviolent action and community development. Of course, as a black Latina, I was also aware of the Young Lords Party, a Puerto Rican nationalist group with chapters in many US cities – most notably in New York and Chicago. Unfortunately, I didn’t know much about the Black Panther Party because they weren’t brought up in school or in my family.